GROWING PAINS: Dual-Citizenship Kids Pick Own Nationality




I dropped Bobby off at the kindergarten earlier this week and was rushing home to get Anna back in time for her piano lesson when we encountered three traffic accidents. The first delay I bore with gritted teeth, the second made me curse beneath my breath and at the third I began cursing above my breath. "Mad Russians have no idea how to drive, crashing all over the place," I hissed as we waited in an endless line. Now since my girls have a Russian father who is the soul of courtesy and drives with a polite deference for others that is completely alien to me after my 15 years of war on Russia roads, this was not a sensible thing to say.


But there I was, boiling behind the wheel, debating whether to drive up onto the pavement or follow the others into the incoming lane until, in the end, I did what I normally never do - blasted "Russians" as a race.


I always keep my mouth shut when drivers swervingly overtake me on the inside or switch on their pretty blue flashing lights to sail down the middle lane to the Kremlin every morning. However, on this particular occasion I cracked, and there was a surprised silence in the back of the car. "Well it's a good thing I'm not Russian then," announced my 8-year-old Anna finally.


"YOU might be English," Sasha snorted, "but I'm Russian and proud of it!" So hold on a second here, who exactly is Russian and who's English among my children? How come Anna presumes she's a foreigner and Sasha presumes Anna's a foreigner too? (Five-year-old Bobby doesn't mind who he is as long as he can make himself understood.)


Anna, it transpired, thought England "suited" her better because it was "tidier" and the people more polite and friendly. "Nobody shouts at you there for stepping in puddles," she explained.


Sasha on the other hand feels England is too constricting. "You have to wear uniforms to school and you hardly have any holidays. And when I got lost in my English school the teacher burst into tears and was almost fired, whereas in my Russian school no one was worried at all."


She also likes sharing her plate with the cats and dogs and going to bed whenever she wants when she stays with Babushka at the dacha. My parents are a little stricter. They teach the children table manners and put them to bed at seven. Anna once asked me how I went to the loo at night when I was growing up because my father ("Grumps") ordered her back into bed when she needed to go for a pee. But despite these little drawbacks, England is still better for her. "Anyway," she said with unswerving logic, "I look English, and Sasha looks Russian."


"Slava Bogu!" exclaimed Sasha, who certainly has a more solid, matryoshka-like frame than her fragile sister. "I'm big boned - that means I can beat up the boys." That's the Russian spirit!